By Associate Professor Dr. Brian Wong Kee Mun
The recent global economic slowdown, Covid-19 pandemic, and the implementation of Movement Control Order (MCO) by the Malaysian government to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus have severely impacted many businesses, particularly the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). 98.5% of the Malaysian economy is driven by the SMEs, cutting across different sectors and business sizes. 907,065 of business establishments in Malaysia are SMEs, providing about 2/3 of total employment in 2018. The SMEs play an essential and critical role in the growth and sustainability of the Malaysian economy as the contributes RM 521.7B (38.3%) to the Malaysian GDP in 2018.
SMEs activities were dominated by Services sector (62.4%), followed by Manufacturing sector (20.1%), Agriculture sector (10.1%), Construction sector (5.9%), and Mining & Quarrying sector (0.5%). Within its own sector, SMEs contribute 52.8% in the Agriculture sector, 46.4% in the Manufacturing sector, 42.4% in the Services sector, 34.4% in the Construction sector, and 2.4% in the Mining & Quarrying sector.
The Malaysian government has stepped up and announced several Economic Stimulus Packages since 27 February 2020 when a RM 20B stimulus package announced by the then Interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. A month later, the first Malaysia Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package that was worth RM 250B was announced by the current Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. On the 6 April 2020, he also announced another RM 10B as the Malaysia Additional Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package specifically for the SMEs. Despite the several stimulus packages, the SMEs’ future remains uncertain. Thus, UOW Malaysia KDU School of Business has organised a series of SMEs Survival Kit webinars to provide some survival tips from different perspectives, that ranged from mindset, business model, strategies, to faith, metaphysics, and law.
A total of 8 Virtual Discourse Sessions (VDS) were conducted from 18 April to 11 May 2020. The sessions were moderated by Associate Professor Dr. Brian Wong, the Head of School of Business at UOW Malaysia KDU University College. Followings were the topics and the invited panelists:
The first VDS proposed the 3M concept for survival during difficult times: Mindset, Model, Marketing. The session highlighted the importance of SME owners to mainly a positive and growth mindset, redefine their business model, and re-strategise their marketing plans in line with the current digital requirements.
With the implementation of Movement Control Order (MCO), the usage of technology and online platforms have further enhanced the usage of digital media for businesses to interact with the customers. Thus, this VDS focused on the formation of digital story strategies for SMEs to survive and excel in the long run.
Similarly, the usage of social media to connect businesses and the market escalated during the MCO period. Thus, this VDS discussed the evolution of social media platforms to support individuals to enter the Gig Economy (e.g. social influencers, youtubers, artistes, etc.).
From digital marketing concept, this VDS dwelled into the finance and funding aspects for business survival. This session offered several survival tips for the SMEs within the limited financial resources available to them during these challenging times, while staying true to their business purpose.
The next session reiterated the essential of having the right mindset among the SME owners from the Faith perspective. The home retainment among the SME owners, disabled them from running their day-to-day business operations, may create a lot of negative thoughts. Thus, this VDS provided the SME owners several essential survival tips through the building of faith and mindset.
From faith and mindset, the SMEs Survival Kit series further offer unique perspectives to the SME owners. The sixth VDS touched on the metaphysics approach, provided views for SME owners to understand and perhaps harness the energy from the universe and apply it in business strategies formation.
With the Economic Stimulus Packages introduced, the Malaysian government highlighted the essential of business digitalisation, particularly for the SMEs to survive through the new normal. Thus, this VDS helped the SME owners to understand better the variety of technologies and online platform options, and the relevant cyber laws surround the digital business sector. The understanding is essential for the SMEs to remain relevant, enhance presence, and improve business sustainability.
While businesses struggling to manage their financial issues, they may also require some legal knowledge when preparing themselves for the new normal situation. Thus, the last VDS was arranged to provide better understanding of commercial and employment law to the SMEs.
The SMEs Survival Kit webinar series aim to shed some lights to the SME owners on different aspects of business and life, where one needs to realise that business survival does not rely only the external environment, but importantly the inner strength of the individuals to sail through stormy weather. While the vaccine for COVID-19 has yet to be discovered and the global economy requires time to heal, the SMEs survival will be challenged continuously in the next one year. As 98.5% of the Malaysian economy is run by the SMEs, their survival needs to be carefully ensured. Thus, it is extremely important for the SMEs to be able to stay strong, both financially and mentally.